Collier’s employees sue over SWAT raid

Press release from Childers Law LLC

Updated at 1:40 p.m. to correct the name of the intern. Updated at 2:45 p.m. to correct additional errors in the release.

On June 2, over a dozen heavily armed members of the Gainesville Police Department’s SWAT unit raided a local commercial real estate broker’s office, confiscating all computers, cell phones, and electronic devices in the building and holding several employees of Collier’s International at gunpoint for several hours. The raid was conducted based on a year-old police report filed in July 2020. In the newly discovered police report, Bosshardt Realty had alleged that a total of one dollar in “trade secrets” had been stolen:

In a July 12, 2021, statement, State Attorney Brian Kramer declined to explain why it was appropriate to use excessive force against unarmed employees, who were not suspects, over a year-old police report featuring a dollar in allegedly stolen property. “I support our local Sheriff’s and Police Chief’s efforts to lawfully and safely execute the warrants of our courts,” Kramer said.

Jason Hurst, a member of the City’s Planning Board and an employee of Collier’s who was held at gunpoint, hands zip-tied, and detained for several hours, said he felt like he was going to be killed. “The trauma caused has led me to not feel safe in my office, not feel safe in my home, and, frankly, not feel safe in this community,” Hurst said. Although Hurst was not named in the police report or the subpoena, his phone, laptop, and even watch were taken by GPD. Officers told Hurst that it could take months for his property to be released, even if it was not involved in any alleged crime.

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Three of the employees who were detained during the raid, including Hurst, and whose valuable electronic property was confiscated during the raid, have retained the Childers Law firm to represent them in a civil rights suit against the City and the police department. “Something doesn’t smell right about this case. You don’t haul reputable citizens in good standing out of their workplace at gunpoint over a year-old police report of one dollar’s worth of stolen trademarks,” attorney Jeff Childers said.

“Needless to say, the employees in that office are law-abiding citizens who didn’t pose any threat to anybody,” Childers said. “They even took my client Nicola Moreland’s laptop and marched her out with assault weapons pointed at her, and she’s just a student intern who was on her second day on the job.”

The search warrant was signed on May 27, 2021, by Circuit Court Judge David Kreider — over 10 months after the police report was originally filed.